This was a big week for our state. Mississippi voters got out on Election Day and made a few things well known: the approval of the new state flag, who they want elected as president and the approval of medical marijuana.
While those who voted in favor of medical marijuana are pleased with the election results, those who didn’t are probably concerned.
I come from a family who is deeply opposed to marijuana use. I, too, used to be against it. I genuinely believed marijuana was only for criminals and unemployed “stoners” who did nothing else with their time.
Over time, with education, my opinion changed.
I’m hopeful that perhaps some of you reading this who are opposed to medical marijuana will have a better understanding as to why so many people, like myself, voted in its favor.
Mississippi will see a growth in revenue.
The Mississippi Department of Health will issue a medical marijuana identification card that would allow patients to obtain medical marijuana from a licensed treatment center. Marijuana sales can be taxed at the current state sales tax rate of 7%.
More importantly, good, law-abiding citizens who suffer from a variety of illnesses can opt for a medication without needing to take opioids.
Opioids are powerful pain killers and people take them because they do succeed at their surface goal. Unfortunately, opioids are extremely addictive and thousands of people have died as a result. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an average of 41 people died each day from overdoses involving opioids in 2018, totaling about 15,000 deaths.
While we’re at it, about 50,000 people die each year from alcohol poisoning and more than 400,000 deaths each year are attributed to smoking tobacco.
To this day, marijuana cannot and has not ever caused death by overdose.
If you try finding the answer as to how many people have died from marijuana use on the CDC’s website, you won’t, simply because no one has.
Taking a look into our nation’s history, marijuana goes back to the days of George Washington, who grew hemp on his plantation.
As people grew to better understand cannabis and its various qualities, so came the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which was the first attempt to apply tax to marijuana used for medicinal purposes.
Although this legislation did at first seem to be an attempt at generating revenue for the government, many scholars, historians and politicians believed it was all deception. The consequences for violating the Marijuana Tax Act — a $2,000 fine ($36,000 adjusted for inflation) and up to five years in prison — were far harsher than the taxes imposed, around $1 per ounce.
Because of these valid criticisms, the Marijuana Tax Act was declared unconstitutional and replaced with the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. This act removed the tax and reduced the severity of punishment for possession, but also denied any medicinal purpose for cannabis and labeled it a Schedule I Substance.
That’s right, marijuana was and still is labeled in the same category as heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, mescaline and bath salts.
The “War on Drugs” has deeply damaged the reputation of marijuana and its fight for legalization has fallen on deaf ears of many politicians.
For too many years, people have been told to fear marijuana and its users. People have been told marijuana will prevent them from having a good education, a good career or a family.
This extreme, negative view of marijuana is slowly diminishing thanks to the success of other states working to change the image of marijuana from a harmful party drug to a taxable medicine.
This taxable medicine, thanks to Initiative 65, will benefit qualified patients — certified by licensed Mississippi physicians — to treat a variety of debilitating medical conditions, including: cancer, epilepsy or other seizures, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cachexia, post-traumatic stress disorder, HIV+, AIDS, chronic or debilitating pain, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, glaucoma, agitation from dementia, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, sickle-cell anemia, autism with aggressive or self-injurious behaviors, pain refractory to appropriate opioid management, spinal cord disease or severe injury, intractable nausea, severe muscle spasticity, and other conditions where a physician believes the benefits of marijuana would outweigh risks.
It’s laughable to think marijuana is considered a dangerous substance, especially when much harsher substances — alcohol and tobacco — are legal to purchase and can be found in just about any store you step into.
Even the CDC says the use of marijuana is beneficial for the symptoms of illnesses, including cancer.
The CDC website, cdc.gov, states: “Studies of man-made forms of the chemicals found in the marijuana plant can be helpful in treating nausea and vomiting from cancer chemotherapy. Studies have found that marijuana can be helpful in treating neuropathic pain (pain caused by damaged nerves).”
Most of the people I have spoken to who are opposed to legalizing medical marijuana say they fear people will abuse it.
Let’s not be naive, the people who abuse marijuana are already doing so.
To perhaps ease some of those fears, marijuana, like alcohol, will not be legal to use while driving or while out in public places.
We would be foolish to deny there are numerous people, many of whom are good, contributing members of society, who already use marijuana in Mississippi. Now they, with a doctor’s approval, will be able to do so legally.
Catherine Kirk is managing editor of the Delta Democrat-Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.